In August 2013 a Melbourne construction company and director were fined nearly $900,000 when a makeshift floor collapsed after being overloaded with materials, killing a 21-year-old apprentice working on the site.

In New Zealand in 2017 a supplier and installer of floor coverings, Rangiora Carpets Ltd, was charged under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 and fined $180,000, including reparation and costs, when an office worker overbalanced while pushing a box of files into a storage area on a mezzanine floor.  There was no handrail for her to hold on to, and she was seriously injured after falling nearly 3 metres through the unconsented mezzanine floor and suspended ceiling, and into the office below.

In many workplaces, nooks and crannies in buildings are used for extra storage.  Over time, spaces used for the temporary storage of lightweight items like Christmas decorations, can start to be used for other, heavier items, like archived files.  If the load capacity of the space is not known there is potential for serious harm.

If your workplace is storing items at height, then it is a simple process to engage an engineer to assess the load rate of the roof space or mezzanine floor and tell you how to apply for the appropriate consent.  It also pays to ensure that:

  • The roof space is strengthened to take the load as per the engineer’s instructions;
  • There are barriers or handrails so that people cannot fall;
  • Access to the space is safe and within the guidelines;
  • Any materials stored in the space are contained and cannot fall.

WorkSafe has issued Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand

We have an experienced team of employment lawyers who can provide you with advice about all aspects of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, including prosecutions. If you have any questions, please contact our Wellington employment lawyer Carolyn Heaton, email: carolyn.heaton@morrisonkent.com; phone: (04) 495-8908

See more of our employment law articles here.